Hunting Series: Crossbow & Bow Hunting
By Richard Bogath
Some people stand on the beach toward the end of August, staring off into the setting sun and thinking not of where they are and the fun they’re fitting in to the end of summer, but to the impending fall season racing toward them like a cold wind spilling a face full of crunchy, dead leaves. The beginning of September is like a Sunday night before a Monday workday, after The Walking Dead has ended and you know you have to go to bed or you’ll be a mess the next morning. Some choose to look at it that way. Others can’t help it. Shame.
Of course, some of us see the glimmer of light in the darkening sky. The impending tingle that leads to the gut churning fervor of the impending hunting season. Frankly, I see September as a month that can’t make up its mind. Too hot for hunting, too cold for swimming, or something like that. But whatever, the fact is…bow hunting season is on the way. You can either embrace that or ignore it. For we who like to prepare… let’s assume you’re going to even marginally embrace it.
I’ve written quite a few articles about hunting on this site, touching here and there on ethics, responsibilities, and options. I propose to you, then, this little mini-series of hunting articles for the newbie or marginally experienced hunter about your options of available projectiles for achieving your hunting goals (and a little about trapping at the last article). So then, ever hunt with a bow and arrow or crossbow?
To bow hunt or not to bow hunt?
- Bows are quiet—Sometimes you can even get off a second shot if you miss with the first.
- No excessive licenses, background checks, etc…
- Bows have a complex shape to break up your outline behind them and are easily camouflaged.
- Bows are lightweight as compared to shotguns, rifles and some crossbows.
- Self inflicted wounds are rare.
- Bows can be cumbersome, awkward to carry and position.
- Arrows are a pain to deal with and drawing back is movement that can be seen by prey.
- Severe range restrictions on how far out you can shoot game.
- Pull strength varies and is impacted by position.
- Lots of accessories like a release, string silencers, pins/optics, etc…
Selecting the right bow for you.
The most important thing about buying a bow for bow hunting is not to buy one that isn’t “fitted” to you. Most of the time this can only be accomplished in an archery proshop or a specialty store like a Cabelas, Gander Mountain or Bass Pro Shops. Be sure that wherever you go, there is a professional staff who knows how to fit a bow to a shooter. Arm length should be measured, pull strength and consideration for what kind of hunting you will be doing. You’ll also have to consider mechanical vs. fixed blade broad heads, kind of arrows you will need and possibly most importantly—sights.
Once all this is done and something decent is put together for you, you will need to test it. Most decent shops will have an indoor or outdoor facility for this so that the shop representative can adjust the sights for you as you shoot and instruct you on how to make finer adjustments as you hone your shooting ability. It’s very important that you do this. Bows are never “out of the box” ready.
Why hunt with crossbows?
- Quiet, but not as quiet as a bow, but still quieter than any gun.
- No excessive licenses, background checks, etc…
- Powerful and not dependent on draw strength to achieve penetrating power.
- Greater range than a bow.
- Simple, gun-like aiming with a multitude of optic options.
- Heavier than a bow…sometimes exceptionally heavy, depending on the style and manufacturer.
- Can be difficult to cock in a tree stand unless you have fancy co2 “autococker” (expensive).
- Crossbows and crossbow bolts (smaller versions of arrows used by crossbows) can be expensive.
- The smaller, lighter crossbow bottle can be more affected by windy days.
Selecting the right crossbow for you.
Like with a bow, you want to hold and ideally shoot a crossbow before making your purchase. While a crossbow will not have to be fitted to the person shooting, variations in weight, size, configuration and cocking technique will be a factor in your ability to hunt with one of these. Ideally you will want to get the lightest, strongest and most powerful crossbow that you can handle. Shoot one for comfort and handling, but also from a sitting position and an awkward sitting position. Rarely will your game animal present itself as a perfect target to you (despite what you see on cable hunting shows) and you will have to compensate for that by aiming and firing from a weird position, like twisting around behind yourself.
Obvious choices of game for bow hunting:
Clearly deer hunting has dominated the American hunting scene for choice of game hunted. Elk and bear follow behind but at a rate less than 1/10 the rate of deer hunters. While bows and crossbows lend themselves perfectly to these game options, you should know that there are also plenty of small game hunting options available that are perfectly achievable with a bow or crossbow like rabbit, squirrel, fox, coyote, quail, partridge, pheasant, and probably a few more that I can’t think of right now. A few minor adjustments to the type of broached used at the tip of your arrow or bolt makes all the difference needed to hunt these types of game.
Ever gone bow fishing before?
Me neither, but I’d love to try it.